Measuring Success: The First Year In Review

BrokenRuler_logo_websiteheader_Oct2015_noshadow

There are differences between levels of success and they’re based on the goals we lay down. Yet no matter how you look at it, we all view success as a means of moving forward and upwards. There’s a momentum behind it and when you get a lot of it behind you, even in small doses, things can really move in directions you never imagined. That’s the mantra I live by when it comes to anything I do. I start small and I let it grow and don’t look back until I can see things have really progressed in ways I had not expected and yet always hoped for.

I guess that’s a long way to say… Welcome to another edition of our Measuring Success series! Where I figuratively pull back the curtain to reveal nothing more than a lone man frantically pushing a lot of buttons in the hopes of creating something magical. And that would be me, Todd Crapper, the publisher of Broken Ruler Games and Pusher Of All Buttons. Not only is it time for an update on this bi-annual sales report for all curious onlookers and fellow independent publishers, it’s also a review of BRG’ first year as a registered business. If you’ve never read any of the previous installments in this series, you can find them all here. Basically, I open up the books and spill the beans on how well my business is doing.

Right off the bat, let’s begin with the good news. We made money! The majority of that stems from the High Plains Samurai Kickstarter, which means that profit is going to be very short lived. But still… we made money! If I take away the Kickstarter funds, we are working in the red but that is very much expected with numerous projects and partnerships in the works, memberships fees, printing costs, and more. There have also been some valuable lessons learned – some of them troubling, others eye opening. As you’ll see below, we’ve also started moving into some exiting new directions for 2018. Put on your goggles, folks, because it’s time to dive into the deep end of the pool.

cropped-worlds_fullres.png

What Did We Sell?

Every one of these posts starts off with a big giant spreadsheet containing sales from multiple sources – DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, CreateSpace/Amazon, the Open Gaming Store, Epimas, and others. Below is the complete sales data from September 2016 to August 2017.

Product

OBS Sales (DriveThruRPG/ RPGNow)

Open Gaming Store Sales

Convention/ Direct Sales

Total
Sales

Total Gross

Killshot: The Director’s Cut

83

11

94

$143.90

PDF

26

26

Hardcover

2

2

Hardcover + PDF

1

1

Killshot: An Assassin’s Journal

9

9

Killshot Files #0

26

11

37

Killshot Files #1

9

9

$12.00

Killshot Files #2

10

10

$27.97

ScreenPlay

314

20

16

350

$450.45

PDF

37

2

39

Softcover

2

16

18

Softcover + PDF

4

4

Ironbound

105

18

105

$8.84

The Blessed and the Damned

150

150

Dial M For Monster

16

16

$68.50

TOTAL

397

31

16

444

$711.66

dialm_finalcoverOverall, sales were down 44% compared to the previous year (and before I registered BRG as a business). The main reason is a lack of new products during this first year. Aside from Dial M For Monster, which bombed, all of my focus this past year was spent preparing the HPS Kickstarter, engaging with distribution channels and connecting with publishing organizations. All things considered, it’s not a harsh drop and is quite acceptable when you consider this crowded RPG market (particularly on DriveThruRPG). These numbers do not include either of the free playtests for ScreenPlay and High Plains Samurai, which helped keep BRG active and increased the size of our audience. These playtests combined were downloaded 1,640 times since 2016 – an impressive amount that helped us raise $6,411 on Kickstarter this year.

What these numbers provide is a benchmark for 2017-18, one I’m quite hopeful can be jumped over and left in the dust when the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game is released in Fall 2018. If I play my cards right, there will also be some early momentum from Summer convention sales and will also be available through North American distribution with Indie Press Revolution (they’ve already requested a restock of 20 copies of ScreenPlay, in fact). While the past couple of months have been off to a slow start, my eyes are looking towards March 2018 for the numbers to make a running charge at that benchmark.

Otherwise, there hasn’t been any significant change in sales since the previous MS post. If you’re interested to read a summary on the first six months’ sales, click here.

HPS-Kickstarter_BalladPreview

What Did I Learn?

If there’s one area that has been the biggest eye-opener, it’s been bookkeeping. Detailing every single transaction, noting it across different reports, multiple currencies, transfers, and all the financial data needed to run a business has changed significantly in our second year. With new opportunities now available to BRG products, including access to distribution through IPR, there’s going to be more to track and I need to keep everything organized in a way that will make sense 365 days of the year.

Balancing the demands of running your own business with the need to create new material has also been challenging with a few adjustments made along the way. This has also lead to a better approach on dedicating time for project management, scheduling and budgeting to get ahead of the train rather than racing after it. There has been more time placed on setting up new opportunities for BRG to pave the way for a larger release with High Plains Samurai than anything else I’ve ever done. While not a conscious goal, there is a chance HPS‘ core rulebook could premiere at Gen Con 2018! An opportunity too good to miss. With these matters handled during the first year of operation, I can now get back to the creative side of the business before stepping back into the marketing and publishing sides. Different hats, as they say.

I’ve also discovered that it is possible to go with only 5 hours sleep for two weeks straight but it’s not going to feel good by the end.

One of those nice and unexpected (yet secretly hoped for) benefits of this past year has been the contacts and support from other indie RPG publishers, particularly with the members of the IGDN. They were incredibly helpful filling in the gaps and tightening up the presentation for the Kickstarter and I’ve been able to work with industry figureheads such as Mark Diaz Truman, Sarah Richardson, Emily Care Boss, and others on the Metatopia Scholarship program. It’s given me a couple of geek-out moments, for sure, but the most important benefit has been that sense of inclusion. Of community and knowing there are others who are just as mad dog crazy as I am about doing this. It’s also offered up a lot to think about when it comes to marketing and communicating with my customers, from setting up a subscription newsletter, to Patreon, and other things that would need a post unto themselves. All told, being part of the IGDN started to teach me how I can responsibly grow BRG.

young-boy-banker-with-money

I also had a blast going on some of my favourite podcasts, including Misdirected Mark and The Gauntlet. Plus there were the personal connections made by attending Breakout in March and shaking hands with fantastic publishers and game designers like Fraser Simons, and Hamish Cameron. Knowing there are people out there you could be trapped on a deserted island with and talk about game design uninterrupted…? Priceless.

Going back to the benchmark mentioned above, this year’s sales were more than enough to handle expenses, printing and shipping costs, convention attendance, travel, and others. One of the advantages of working almost completely online is the savings; it’s quite possible to make a lot of business arrangements without leaving your chair. This means as long as I can at least pull in these kinds of numbers year-to-year, the business can continue to stay afloat. And that requires a continuous release schedule, something my editor, Vince Harper, brought up during one of our earlier production meetings.

Hmm, perhaps now would be a good time to get to the fun question…

What’s In Store For 2018?

So glad you asked! Thanks to the 273 honorable backers who helped make this happen, we’ll be rolling out the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game in two phases.

  • breakout2018-logo_324x179In March 2018, you can try out High Plains Samurai: Legends as a free download. Legends provides players with everything they need to play out one-shots in the One Land, perfect for convention play and to test out your wire-fu storytelling skills. Will include pre-generated characters, character & scene notes and three storylines. A print-on-demand (POD) version will also be available for a reasonable price (currently in the $10-$15 range based on final page count). We’re on target to premiere Legends at Breakout 2018 in Toronto, Canada and my plan is to have softcover copies available there as well.

  • Then in the Fall of 2018, the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game core rulebook will reveal everything you need to begin magnificent and dangerous tales from the One Land. Complete with character creation, advice for Writers and Directors, detailed introductions to the Five Cities and the Wastes, and more. This core guide to the game will be sold in PDF, POD, and softcover (prices yet to be determined) on all OneBookShelf sites, Amazon, and at major conventions and (hopefully) local gaming stores across North America (but I’ll settle with a handful… for now).

Plans are also underway for a dedicated High Plains Samurai website, publishing Fraser Ronald’s origin story of Black Scorpion, moving forward with the Atlas of the One Land project, I’m currently plotting out some ideas for a series of mini-games, and the wheels are spinning on a Black Scorpion’s Revenge Kickstarter late next year or early 2019. There will be more to come about these projects… soon. Stay tuned.

In Conclusion…

I’m quite pleased with this first year. Capped off with the success of the Kickstarter and the knowledge gained during the first 365 days of official operation, I’m really looking forward to applying these to the next 365 days. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hyperventilating deep down inside but optimistically hyperventilating. If such a thing exists. All in all, I’m very happy with this first year.

If you have any questions or comments on what you’ve seen here, I’d be happy to follow up with more information or compare notes to help fill in a few more gaps in the indie market.

Advertisements

Two More Weeks and Counting…

If there’s one piece of advice to dispense above all others for anyone looking to run a Kickstarter, it’s this: the middle of the campaign is a killer. After this resounding success meeting our target in only 47 hours, the High Plains Samurai Kickstarter is now at the midsection of the campaign and building towards what we hope will be an exciting conclusion.

If you haven’t been there yet or if you haven’t checked it out since the launch, take a look at all the goodies that are waiting for you should we cross the $5,000 and $7,000 lines. Based on our current projections, it looks as if we’ll be able to create a small product line for HPS and it’s all thanks to our backers.

HPS-Kickstarter_goalschecklist

Visit the High Plains Samurai Kickstarter and back it today! Or tomorrow. But definitely no later than June 29th.

You can also read Fraser Ronald’s first three chapters of Ballad of a High Plains Samurai, the origin story of Black Scorpion.

Funded!

HPS-Kickstarter_April2017_leadgraphicfunded_1024x576

That one glorious word says it all. It only took 47 hours to reach its goal and the people have spoken – High Plains Samurai has reached its target goal and there’s still 28 days to take this game to the next level.

The response to HPS has been amazing and while there’s still a long road to travel before we cross the last stretch goal on the current list (at $18,000), we are working on new ideas to expand how all players can interact with the One Land and move their story forward. Stay tuned for that.

Because we reached our initial goal, it also means Jeff Brown will put together a full colour map of the One Land. You can learn more about Jeff and his amazing portfolio (he’s also the cover artist for ScreenPlay) on his website.

Thank you everyone for your support and we can’t wait to see how fast this train can go.

High Plains Samurai Slaps Kickstarter Across the Face!

HPS-Kickstarter_April2017_leadgraphic_1024x576Or that’s the hope, at least.

Yes, the moment has finally arrived. High Plains Samurai is now on Kickstarter with a $3,000 CDN target to reach before June 29, 2017 at 10:00 PM EST. Our own HPS page has been updated and if you’ve been keeping an eye on this project for the past couple years, now is your time to show just how much the One Land means to you.

There’s so much to do on this first day that we’re going to dive right into it. Even if you’re on the fence about this ultimate mash-up RPG, you can download the first chapter from the Kickstarter page and see for yourself. You can also gain access to the complete Kickstarter Edition of the game shortly after backing it for as little as $1. Either way, everything you need to know about the Five Cities and how you can help save (or destroy) it is… yep, you guessed it. On the Kickstarter page. 

Holy $&@*, The Kickstarter Is Only 5 Days Away!

HPS_KickstarterCover_7x10_web
The cover for High Plains Samurai: The Kickstarter Edition (available only through the Kickstarter, don’t cha know)

Some headlines can only encapsulate the true emotion of the moment with a curse. Or a censored curse, in this case.

As of the day this post goes live, the High Plains Samurai Kickstarter goes live and everything’s looking great! The page has already been approved and can be launched whenever we choose (but we’re sticking with May 30th so coincide with Todd’s appearance on Misdirected Mark). Over the course of this weekend, we’ll be updating the website, outputting the PDF for the Kickstarter Edition of the game, finalizing the video, and a few more bits and pieces. It’ll be a busy weekend and it’ll all be worth presenting the best possible version of the game to make you honoured to become a backer.

And the stretch goals… oh, the stretch goals. Let us simply say one word to show you how far this game can go: trilogy.

On behalf of everyone involved in HPS, thank you for your support in getting the word out on this campaign and hope you’ll continue to do so in the coming month. You can follow Todd (@Warden_Op on Twitter) if you’re looking to #SaveTheOneLand as a hero or you can follow Chaos (who has hacked our @BrokenRuler Twitter account) if you’re looking to #DestroyTheOneLand as a villain.

What Is High Plains Samurai?

hpslogo_geared_preview2What a good question. What exactly is High Plains Samurai (or HPS, as we call it around here)? With a little over a month before the public playtest/preview and four months until the Kickstarter launch, now seems like just as good a time as ever to divulge what makes this game tick. And there are many more questions to answer in the coming weeks.

  • What genre is High Plains Samurai?
  • What is the One Land, the Five Cities, and the Wastes?
  • Who are the people calling them home?
  • How do you play these characters?
  • What is qi and how does it give some of these people incredible powers?
  • What are the Elemental Spirits and how do they interact with the One Land?
  • Who is this Black Scorpion threatening to destroy the One Land and finish what Chaos started?

Plus so many more. That’s where posts like this will begin to answer those question, tease you of the infinite possibilities, and prepare you to band together to save this world and its people from ultimate destruction.

For those of you new to this site (and Broken Ruler in general), my name is Todd Crapper (yes, that’s right) and I’m the creator of HPS and the figurehead of Broken Ruler Games. With this long gestating project approaching these two major milestones, I want to share with you the process of creating this game, its setting, and what is so magical about this game.

Let’s begin with perhaps the first lesson: What genre is HPS?

The Ultimate Mash-Up

the_good_the_bad_the_weird_film_posterCutting straight to the chase, HPS isn’t about one or two genres. When it first started four years ago in my kitchen, it was a spin-off based on The Good, The Bad, and The Weird involving a train robbery merging westerns with wild and crazy wire-fu sword fighting. As time went on and as this game grew in potential, it also became apparent publishing this project faced an obvious hurdle: there were already a few western/samurai mash-ups in the RPG community. This one needed something unique to truly stand out in the crowd.

Building up the setting, I started experimenting with additional genres adapted to suit each of the major locations in the place called the One Land. Each of the Five Cities – the major communities fortified within unique geographical locations and home to vast majority of survivors from Chaos’ Wrath, a near apocalyptic event that has scarred the landscape and its people for generations – became its own stand alone setting. Merged into one cohesive whole, there are near endless possibilities for the make-up of any group of heroes (though anti-heroes may be a better word).

What began as a wester/samurai/wire-fu concept has now become a western/samurai/gangster/barbarian/steampunk/post-apocalyptic/superpowered quest of gods fighting over the fate of their homeland. Phew!

Imagine the possibilities. Your group can consist of a young, insulate gangster who rose from poverty to a position of power within one of the gangs from Yung Zhi, enforcing his boss’ orders with a Tommy gun; a bounty hunter and her double-barrelled shotgun who calls the rugged, sandstorm streets of Hunan home; a banished warrior from the snow capped mountains of Khar’tep with nothing but the desire for revenge, his axes, and the ability to turn flesh to stone; a noble warrior from the poisonous jungle surrounding the fortress of Monsoon tasked with discovering a lost tome by her General, blade and armour at the ready to battle anyone who gets in her way; and a genius inventor from the underground city of Rust, who happens to make his way across the One Land riding atop a warmech and its twin machine guns.

This also means going up against some equally versatile and dangerous enemies. Your lead characters will face others who have tapped into their qi powers, wield legendary weapons capable of slicing through stone or summoning a swarm of locusts, and so much more. Like I said, the possibilities are endless.

How The Hell Are You Making All These Genres Work?

img_3101
A demonstration of “anything goes in the One Land” portrayed in this early concept piece by Kieron O’Gorman. 

If you’ve ever heard of (or better yet, played) ScreenPlay, you have a very good idea of how HPS works. If not, well, it uses story game mechanics allowing a wide range of genres, styles of play, and more. More importantly, the players are the ones driving the story forward with the Director (aka the GM) keeping the plot moving forward and challenging the lead characters in a true improv style game where anything can happen.

You can learn more about ScreenPlay right here.

By stripping away the mechanics associated with genres, tropes, and other standards of any specific emulation, the rules allow everyone to simply describe their characters as they see fit. Without guidelines or mechanics forcing your hand in how you act and guiding your behaviour using pre-determined reward systems, you can play HPS however you want to play it. Even in whatever storytelling style floats your boat: scripts, novels, anime, the sky’s the limit.

But HPS is not exactly a ScreenPlay product. It applies a few new mechanics specifically designed to maximize your potentials as your story unfolds, such as building your potentials rather than default to its dice value, legendary weapons, teachings… don’t worry, we’ll get there soon. What continues from its predecessor is a free flowing storytelling experience driven by its players to create their own version of a world filled with characters like Grandfather Tom, the Council of Iron, the Desert Sun Gang, Xang the Mother of All Gangsters, and the unstoppable cataclysmic force known as the Black Scorpion.

The Doors Have Begun To Open…

Over the next few months, you’re going to have the opportunity to learn a lot more about HPS and how you can help shape the game that will hit Kickstarter in March 2017. For our next lesson in tapping into your inner qi, we’ll get into that dreaded day when Chaos – the very creator of the universe – took revenge on the One Land to punish his children.

Until then, we invite you to discover more about HPS on the official High Plains Samurai page. 

 

ScreenPlay Video Journal #2: Editing, Layout & Rethinking Kickstarter Ideas

Closer and closer we get to bringing ScreenPlay to your game table, making it time for the next ScreenPlay Video Journal. Logan’s back to help make this video cuter (couldn’t hurt), but in all seriousness it’s time to get into the game’s progress, how Kickstarter’s recent influx of RPG projects has lead to a change in direction, the importance of stories like High Plains Samurai for ScreenPlay’s future, and how the Director Cut’s could help make backing these stories more than just a pre-order.